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Thursday, February 2, 2012

My previous trips to Sri Lanka 1977 and 2003

Back in 1977, being 17 years old, I  went for an exciting 4 months study trip to Sri Lanka, as practice during my Zoo keeper education in Stockholm 1976-1979. My class mate, Chandana Perara, whos father was working on the Sri Lanka Embassy in Stockholm, was the main inspiration for this trip.

I was already focused on elephants then, and had started working weekends in the elephants house in Skansen Zoo, Stockholm. Before going to Sri Lanka, I also worked 3 weeks with 9 elephants (from Tognis Circo Americano) at Circus Scott in Sweden, under elephant trainer Banda Vidane.

Lyn de Alwis
The plans was to practice zoo keeping at Sri Lanka National Zoological Gardens (Dehiwela Zoo) in the capitol Colombo, but after meetings with Director of Dehivela and Department of Wild Life Conservation (DWLC) , Mr. Lyn de Alwis, (Chairman of the South Asian Elephant Group) this was postponed, and instead, I came to stay longer periods at the Udugama Plywood Corporation, in hill country north of the town Galle, invited by the director Mr Wickramaratne, where I could study working timber elephants. I also went to see some processions in Kandy and outside Colombo, and visited the Pinnawela elephant orphanage in Kegalle, which then only had a few elephants. In February 1977 there was a pretty large Perahera outside Colombo, which was not the present populair Nawam Maha Perahera at Gangaramaya Temple, it was another temple...

I returned to Sweden in Spring 1978, full of inspiration, and with an eager to become an elephant trainer, and since then elephants has been a major part of my life. And Sri Lanka has a special place in my heart.

My next trip to Sri Lanka was together with Mrs Anette Walter-Kilian from Germany in September 2003. Anette established Project Lucky Sama, (german: Förderverein "Pinnawela-Hilfe" Lucky Sama") in 2001. in order to support Pinnawela in general, as well as trying to give landmine victim elephant Sama a better life. An artificial prothestis was made for Sama, but becasue of different reasons, she was never completely trained to use it, and rejected it. In 2006 Anette initiated a new health- and research center at Pinnawela, and brought two X-ray machines from Germany. My contribution to the project became interupted by work in Zimbabwe, where I was training a group of elephants for safari ridings, between 2004 and 2006.

I still believe, that Sama can be trained for a protesthis, but after visiting the elephant hospital in Lampang, Thailand, and seing their succesful results, I think the german protesthis is not optimal, it was too heavy.

During that 2003 trip I also met Jayantha Jayewardene, with whom I had Internet contact with, since several  years before. Its mainly Mr Jayewardene who supplied the general information for my database about elephants at the Pinnawela elephant orphanage, records which has been stolen worldvide and publized on other websites since then. Jayantha Jayewardene also wrote the book The Elephant in Sri Lanka , and he is member of IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG), and editor of AsESG´s bi-annual journal Gajah.

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